SSNS Home > Senior Years > Curricula 9-12 > Grade 11 > Canadian History > Battlefields Tour > 18 July 2010
Blake brought us fresh bread from the bakery this morning, a most gracious gesture that he continued throughout the week. We were responsible for our own breakfasts, and I made an omelette, which only Trevor was brave enough to try. Then we gathered at the women’s apartment at the other end of the building to discuss resources for teaching. During the break that followed, I took a walk along the brook [or River Drôme as I later found out] and into a nearby field which had been mowed recently. We were in a bit of a valley here with small fields separated either by the brook or by hedges and stands of trees. Up on the side of a hill less than a kilometre away was a working farm, with a house that could have been three hundred years old. There were cattle there, and a donkey named Edgar that brayed early every morning. He likes to eat apples, so a few of us made a point of taking them to him. When we had no more, he simply turned tail and walked away without even a thank-you!
At around 11:00 a.m., with blue skies and sunshine all around, we set out for Courseulles-sur-Mer and Juno Beach, which are a little over 20 km east of Bayeux. On the way, we saw many lovely old villages, each of them dominated by the spire of an old church that was visible for miles. As Blake told us, they were useful during the Normandy invasion as observation posts and as geographical markers for soldiers moving in unfamiliar territory. By the number of cars parked around one such church we passed by, it was evident that they still have an important spiritual function today as well. We stopped in Tailleville, so that Peter could take a picture of the spot where his soldier, Archie McNaughton, was killed by a machine gun fire on D-Day. Then we drove into Courseulles and followed the road along the River Seulles to the spot above Juno Beach where the remains of a German bunker are located. Lee gave his first lecture here on the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Then we walked down to the beach, where Lee pointed out the location of the guns, and we saw firsthand what the infantry faced as they came ashore. We next went into the town to look at a Duplex Drive Sherman tank, which I later discovered had been rescued from the bottom of the English Channel in 1970.
We rejoined the group in Bernières-sur-Mer, which is just east of Courseulles. While we ate our lunches on the sea wall next to the famous Maison Queen’s Own Rifles, Lee outlined the events that occurred there. We may have gone to one more memorial; I can’t remember. However, our final stop of the day was at the Canadian military cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, about 5 km south of Bernières-sur-Mer. Here Peter made a presentation on Major Archie McNaughton, a farmer from Northern New Brunswick who rose to be an officer and died during the Normandy invasion. Afterwards we walked around the cemetery, looking at the headstones and taking pictures. Then we returned to the Moulin Morin. A few of us elected to remain at the mill and eat leftovers, while the rest went to a restaurant. Afterwards Karen, Diane R., and I visited Edgar and took pictures. On our return, Karen and I went for another long walk to become better acquainted with the area. We saw a property for sale and speculated on what it would cost to purchase it for conversion into a bed and breakfast. We also saw four more donkeys in a pasture nearby. Before we got home, we had met one part of the restaurant group coming from one direction and the rest from another. When we finally got to Moulin Morin, we found Trevor sitting under the tree by the brook smoking a cigar and having a drink. Karen joined him and soon had her own cigar, an indulgence she had learned from her father! I left them in animated conversation and went inside to write in my journal. It was a bit of a struggle to remember everywhere we had been that day, and I hardly had a note about anything Lee had said about the landings. All I could recall was that low clouds prevented the air force from silencing the guns along the shore, which meant that the landing was difficult and more men lost their lives as a result. Nevertheless, they succeeded. Planning had been detailed and highly sophisticated, not just for the landing of the men, but also for the supplies that would be required to move the invasion inland. It was a monumental task that required months and years to put together. D-Day now had my attention, and I was sure that I would be learning a great deal in the next days.